You don’t need a lot of fancy supplies to make a creative home, but a having a few versatile basics on hand opens up a world of possibilities. Take a look inside my “art cart” to see the kids’ craft supplies I can’t live without.
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One of the keys of having a creative home is giving kids lots of opportunities to create! Our role as parents isn’t to come up with elaborate ideas and projects. We just need to provide the tools. When we give our kids access to materials that inspire their imaginations, we give them permission to explore and enable them to bring their ideas to life.
The good news is that this can be as simple. You don’t have to scour Pinterest for inspiration or buy expensive specialty supplies if that’s not your thing. Just a handful of versatile basics will open up a world of creative possibilities!
I’ve found it helpful to keep my most-used, basic supplies in one place so everyone knows where to find them (and where to put them away!). Ours live in a 3-tiered rolling cart (like this one). You can keep them in a cupboard, cart, drawer, or bin. Whatever works for you! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just make the supplies available (more on that later).
Want to know which supplies will give you the most bang for your buck? Here are my must-have kids’ craft supplies. They’re all inexpensive, basic supplies that can be used in practically infinite ways to inspire creativity at home!
kids craft supplies I always keep on hand
painter’s tape is pretty much the holy grail of the creative play world. We use it for just about everything around here: to hang up the kids’ art work without damaging the walls, to hold large sheets of paper in place while doing projects, to make lines for active play and learning games (like the four-square court we made in our basement). The list is endless! Let’s just say I use it enough that I just bought a giant six-pack from Amazon.
Our GIANT stack of colorful paper gets used all the time for art projects. I love knowing that whatever the kids can imagine, we can create it! Having all the colors of the rainbow also makes it super easy to create learning games like this Valentine’s themed 5-in-1 activity or this rainbow scavenger hunt.
3. Craft sticks
Simple wood craft (popsicle) sticks can be used to create fun learning games (like our favorite: Alphabet Kaboom!), for STEM challenges, artsy crafts, and more. Not sure what to use them for? Try one of these 30+ awesome popsicle stick crafts and activities!
4. Pom Poms
Pom poms are great for counting, color sorting, catapulting, crafting, and so much more! I bought this set (don’t you love the bright colors?!) to use with our family’s warm fuzzy jar, and the extras have been used for lots of creative play ever since!
5. Dot stickers
I love dot stickers! Peeling stickers off of the backing is great for building fine motor skills in kids, and they can be used for all sorts of activities (think: alphabet matching, counting, etc.). Want more ideas? Susie at Busy Toddler has tons of great ideas for super simple ways to use dot stickers with your kids.
6. Easel paper
A big roll of paper is perfect for making birthday banners, covering the table during messy projects, and for hanging on the wall to get some vertical writing/drawing practice. I have found the absolute BEST price to be the MALA paper roll at IKEA, but you can also find similar paper rolls on Amazon.
Why string? For starters, it makes for great Lego zip lines and super spy “laser” obstacle courses. Not to mention how many leashes we’ve made for stuffed animal pets. We have also used yarn/string for weaving, string art, and for hanging up art projects. Basically, we use it all the time! (Safety note: As with all art supplies, be mindful of the ages of your kids when deciding where to store items and supervise their use.)
8. Glue sticks
If you’re going to craft, you’ve gotta have glue! Glue sticks are great for young kids who are still developing gluing skills. They’ll work for most basic crafts, and you don’t have to worry about a lake of sticky goo ending up on your table. If you have older kids (or you have a high cupboard to store them in when not in use), I also recommend having white “school” glue and a low temp glue gun to open up more crafting options.
9. Googly eyes
Is it just me, or are projects made 10 times more fun by adding googly eyes?! Whether you’re making heart monsters, whipping up a DIY slime kit or creating play dough gingerbread men, googly eyes are a simple way to take creative play to the next level. I have bought mine from the dollar store in the past, but I am currently loving this inexpensive kit from Amazon that has self adhesive eyes in a nice little organized case!
10. Drawing tools
You probably already have crayons and markers at home, but they’re such an essential supply! Kids can do so much creating with just something to draw with and a stack of plain white paper. Tip: keep a variety of drawing tools on hand (Think: crayons, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, etc.) so kids can explore the ways different tools affect the look of their artwork. Also, consider going beyond the basic box…I got HOURS of contented play out of this big box of crayons I surprised my kids with one rainy afternoon, and my preschooler has been loving this 50-pack of markers we got him for Christmas.
12. Kid scissors
Knowing how to safely and properly use scissors is another one of those critical school skills that most people don’t think a lot about teaching their kids. It doesn’t take much to get them started, but giving kids lots of opportunities to practice cutting will help them in school…and allow them to make all sorts of fun things at home! I like these kid scissors because they comfortably fit both right- and left-handed kiddos (like my preschooler).
I know. Paint is messy. But it’s also magical for kids! The key is to buy washable paint (we’ve been using this paint for years), cover your table with a cheap vinyl tablecloth, and put an old shirt over the kids’ clothes. With these few precautions, painting with kids really can be fun! Want a fun project to try that doesn’t even require a brush? Try marble painting!
Once you have the basics, here are few more kids craft supplies to consider adding to your stash:
- scotch tape
- pipe cleaners
- tissue paper
- contact paper
And last but not least…
A FEW TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN CRAFTING WITH KIDS:
#1: You don’t need a lot of fancy supplies. You really don’t. Many of the items on the list above can even be found at your local dollar store! Other supplies can be recycled from stuff you already own and don’t need anymore. Keep tissue paper and ribbon from gifts received, use cardboard from cereal boxes, or extra buttons from clothes that have holes. Kids love to turn trash into creative treasures!
#2: Make supplies easily accessible. After reading The Brave Learner last year, I was inspired to create an art cart for my kids’ creative supplies. It’s a 3-tiered rolling cart (see similar from IKEA here) that lives in the corner of our kitchen. By making these supplies visible and easily accessible, it encourages my kids to use them more often (kinda like how you are more likely to eat whatever is at eye-level in the fridge). It also makes them more independent because they don’t have to ask me to get out supplies. Now, I realize that having scissors and glue within reach of an inquisitive toddler might not be the best idea, but I encourage you to think about what supplies you could safely make available to your kids.
#3: Protect your work surfaces. One of the biggest barriers I’ve heard from moms about getting crafty with their kids is that it’s too messy. I hear you! I like a clean space as much as anyone…but with a few of simple tricks, you can save your sanity and make clean up a breeze.
- Teach your kids to use placemats. I bought these inexpensive ones at IKEA, and my kids know that whenever they get out markers, crayons, play dough, ANYTHING, they need to grab a placemat, too. This keeps them from denting my table with their writing or getting it gooey with glue.
- Get yourself a cheap vinyl tablecloth. Mine is one I bought for $4 in the holiday section at Target. Whenever my kids do messy projects like painting, slime, kinetic sand, etc. I quickly spread out the tablecloth and then let them get busy! It takes 30 seconds, and it allows me to relax and enjoy creating with my kids instead of stressing about the mess. It also makes clean up e
- Use old shirts as “smocks”. Do you have a few old t-shirts lying around. You know, the kind you get for free as a promotion for some even or other? Repurpose them by designating them as creative smocks for the kids. Teach your kids to pull one on before they paint to protect their clothes. I hate scrubbing stains out of laundry, so this one is important for me!
#4: Let the kids LEAD. Sometimes, when we think of making crafts with our kids, we think of all the adorable creations that Pinterest shows us. And those are great! But I’ve learned to be careful not to hold so tightly to my own ideas of what a project it “supposed” to look like that I forget what I’m REALLY trying to accomplish. After all, If we really want to inspire creativity in our kids, we have to let THEM create…even if that means their valentine’s heart is black with orange tiger stripes and neon green spikes (yep, that’s my son!). Besides, I guarantee that the unconventional creations are going to be the ones you treasure years from now.
Now it’s your turn…what are your favorite ways to get creative with your kids?
Want more ideas for creative kids? Try these: